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Jesús López Cobos 1940-2018

03.05.18
Jesús López-Cobos

We mourn the loss of the refined and sensitive conductor Jesús López Cobos, who passed away on March 2, 2018 at the age of 78. He was known as a conductor of great integrity with a superb ear for instrumental balance and color. He was also an influential mentor to many young conductors of both opera and orchestra. Jesús López Cobos held several prominent music director positions throughout his long and successful career including the Teatro Real in Madrid (2003-2010), Deutsche Oper Berlin (1981-1990), the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra (1991-2000), and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (1986-2001) where he has been Music Director Emeritus since 2001.

Spanish-born López Cobos's illustrious career took him to centers of symphonic and operatic music around the world, where he was renowned as a conductor of elegance and authority. Under his leadership for fifteen seasons, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra earned international acclaim for its extensive recordings and significant touring activity in Europe, Asia and the US, including annual sell-out performances at Carnegie Hall.

He was regarded as one of the great interpreters of bel canto Italian opera conducting regularly at the Wiener Staatsoper and Grand Théâtre de Genève, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Teatro alla Scala, San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera. His years at the Deutsche Oper Berlin included a major Ring Cycle at the Berlin Festival, Washington DC's Kennedy Center and the first ever complete performance in Japan.

López Cobos conducted extensively in Europe including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Orchestre de Paris, Royal Concertgebouw, London Symphony, Vienna and Israel Philharmonics, and at the Salzburg and Verbier festivals. After his first concert with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1978, he toured extensively with the orchestra and held the post of Principal Guest Conductor 1981-86. In North America, he conducted the Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Boston Symphony orchestras, and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. He was also much-loved in Japan including regular performances with the NHK Symphony.

The conductor's recording career includes releases of both operatic and orchestral repertoire for Philips, London/Decca, Angel/EMI and RCA Victor. For Telarc he has made numerous recordings with the Cincinnati Symphony including de Falla's "Three-Cornered Hat", Bruckner Symphonies Nos. 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9, an all-Strauss disc featuring a Suite from "Der Rosenkavalier" and the "Burleske" for Piano and Orchestra with soloist Jeffrey Kahane, and "Music of Turina and Debussy," which was nominated for a Grammy Award. Among his most recent releases was Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” with Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja, and he conducted and recorded with many of the world's top singers including Luciano Pavarotti, Bryn Terfel, Jonas Kaufmann, Renée Fleming and Plácido Domingo.

Lopez Cobos graduated with a degree in philosophy from the University of Madrid. Although he had received no formal musical training, he began to conduct the university choir. His talent was immediately evident and led to studies in conducting with Franco Ferrara in Italy and, by 1966, with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna. Three years later he won First Prize in the Besancon Competition and made his debut as a professional conductor in opera at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. His American operatic debut came in 1972 at the San Francisco Opera.

Among his many awards, López Cobos received the Cross of Merit, First Class, of the Federal Republic of Germany for his outstanding contributions to German culture, and the government of France inducted him as an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters. He holds an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Cincinnati and has been honored by his own country for his artistic achievements on two occasions; once as the first recipient of the Prince of the Asturias Award, which was presented to him by the Spanish government and the Royal House in 1981, and more recently, in 2001 he was presented with the Medal of Bellas Artes.

There is a street named after Jesús López Cobos in Seville, and a school and a park in Toro, Zamora, Castile-León, where he was born on February 25, 1940. He is survived by his wife Brigitte and sons Jesús, Manuel and Antoine. He will be deeply missed by his colleagues and friends and we send our condolences to his family.